Today @NCCapitol (May 15): Tax bill gets rolling, legislative building rules to be revised
Posted May 15, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, May 15. Here's what's you need to know about state government today:
The state House is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. today. The state Senate is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. There are no bills scheduled for debate on the floor in either chamber. Rather, the action at the legislature will tax place in three committee meetings, including one that will establish new rules for decorum in the legislative complex.
TAXES: The House Finance Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. to take up an omnibus tax bill that will contain many of the recommendations of the Revenue Laws Study Committee. Among the measures contained in that bill is an excise tax on e-cigarettes and a measure that would restrict the business privilege license taxes cities and counties can impose.
The bill was the subject of a joint House-Senate Republican caucus meeting, where members report they ran through each section of the bill. Several members of the Finance Committee said that the bill was almost identical to the proposals sent forward by the Revenue Laws Study Committee with one exception.
It contains an item clarifying when local governments may impose an occupancy tax on those renting their homes or cottages.
"Apparently, the Department of Revenue has given different interpretations about private residences and cottages rented for fewer than 15 days," said Rep. Allen McNeill, R-Randolph, who represents a slice of Moore County.
Somewhere along the way, the rules have gotten muddled at the state level, but local governments have kept collecting the tax on houses rented for fewer than 15 days if they were leased through a broker of some kind.
The provision in the omnibus tax measure, McNeill said, simply clarifies the legislature's intent and codifies what most counties have been doing anyway.
So why did this come up? McNeill said officials in Moore County were endeavoring to understand the rules in advance of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, which is set to take place this summer in Pinehurst. They got conflicting information.
Although the bill as currently drafted applies to all 100 counties, it is moving quickly, at least in part, to ensure that the occupancy tax rules are clear by the time visitors start arriving for the tournament.
BUDGET: Pretty much anyone who isn't a member of the House Finance Committee will be heading to an 8:30 a.m. joint appropriations committee hearing, where staffers from the governor's office will give a rundown of Gov. Pat McCrory's budget proposal. McCrory spending plan focuses on teacher raises Teachers press case for raises
McCrory and Budget Director Art Pope laid out their $21 billion proposal for reporters Wednesday. It included raises for teachers, magistrates, state troopers and other state employees and makes other changes to the two-year budget plan that lawmakers put in place last year.
Lawmakers could get more details on some of the key policy items in the budget, including how the administration plans to reshape a tax credit used to lure film productions to North Carolina and how it would start going about the Medicaid reform process that legislative leaders have said the General Assembly does not have time to take up this year.
RULES: The rules that govern what is and is not allowed inside the legislative buildings and the surrounding campus are due to get a rewrite from the Legislative Services Commission. The commission last formally met in the 1990s, and the rules that visitors are currently asked to abide by date back to the 1980s. 'Moral Monday' protests returning to legislature next week New rules for legislative building to be discussed
Virtually nobody has noticed the rules for decades until the "Moral Monday" protests from last year led to arrests. Many of the nearly 1,000 people arrested in connection with civil disobedience at the legislature were charged with breaking the building rules, which currently include a prohibition on carrying signs and visiting the second floor, where legislative leaders have their office and the entrances to the House and Senate chambers are located.
When they have gone to court, some protesters have been convicted, and others have been acquitted depending on the evidence in their particular case and the judge hearing it.
"There's been a lot of water under the bridge since they were revised," said Rep. Tim Moore, the House Rules Committee chairman and a member of the commission. He said the changes were meant to clarify what is and isn't allowed, update the rules to comport with practice and make it easier for police to obtain convictions when they do make arrests.
However, the NAACP, which has led the protests, and the ACLU have expressed skepticism that the rules will pass constitutional muster and concern that they could "invite selective enforcement."
BARKING: The Humane Society is leading a Motorcycle Ride to End Puppy Mills to the legislative complex. The event is mean to push for House Bill 930, legislation that would put basic health and safety standards on dog breeders. The measure has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate.
No word on whether the fist dog, Moe, will be riding to the event. However, McCrory did say that Moe will be launching his own website as part of an effort to push for the bill.
PRISON PIZZA PARTIES: Hundreds of pizzas, wings, chicken poppers, cheese sticks and doughnuts have been delivered to inmates at Harnett Correctional Institution in the past year, WRAL Investigates found. Prison officials say the pizza parties are a positive part of inmates’ rehabilitation, but victims’ advocates say the practice is inappropriate.
PEACE OFFICERS: From the Associated Press:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — U.S. and state flags across North Carolina are to be lowered in recognition of Peace Officer Memorial Day.
The flags are to be lowered from sunrise through sunset on Thursday.
In recognition of President Barack Obama's designation of May 15 as national Peace Officers Memorial Day, Gov. Pat McCrory is encouraging all citizens to display flags at half-staff at their homes and businesses.
McCrory says law enforcement officials in North Carolina prove time and time again that the safety of the citizens is their first priority, and that the citizens are grateful for the bravery they show.
MISHANDLED DNC MONEY: Charlotte misused more than $132,000 in federal money that city officials received to beef up security during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, reports McClatchy's D.C. Bureau.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Other stories we were following Wednesday included:
MORAL MONDAYS: Leaders of a protest movement that led to nearly 1,000 arrests at the General Assembly last year announced Wednesday that they will hold their first rally of the 2014 legislative session next Monday.
AUTISM: A joint legislative committee studying the state's response to the federal Affordable Care Act failed Wednesday morning for the third time in two days to get enough of its 46 members together to pass a bill dealing with insurance mandates.That's despite the fact some lawmakers thought they had reached a compromise Tuesday night. The bill has run into significant opposition from the families of children with autism, who feared it would derail and effort to push insurers to cover behavioral therapies.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS: Before the General Assembly reconvened Wednesday for its 2014 session, House Speaker Thom Tillis and members of the Republican caucus gathered to outline their legislative priorities for the short session. Yet, an undercurrent of national politics ran through the half-hour news conference. Tillis a week ago captured the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November, and he referenced problems he saw in Washington, D.C., almost as much as issues that needed to be addressed in Raleigh.
VOUCHERS: The North Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold a judge's ruling that has prevented state officials from holding a lottery to award taxpayer-funded vouchers to low-income families that want to send their children to private or religious schools.
RACING: The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a resolution Wednesday afternoon honoring five racing legends in Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame. Maurice Petty, Tim Flock, Dale Jarrett, Jack Ingram and Fireball Roberts joined the ranks of celebrated drivers and crew members in the Hall of Fame, which inducts five new members each year.
TEACHERS: As state lawmakers returned to Raleigh on Wednesday to open their 2014 session, teachers rallied nearby to keep the focus on raises that McCrory and legislative leaders have promised in recent months.
BILLS: Lawmakers began filing bills for the short session Wednesday. The following were among the dozens of proposals filed:
House Bill 1036: No Revolving Door Employment: This bill is aimed at curbing the cycle of state workers going to work those whom they regulate or oversee. It stemmed from a recommendation made by the Office of State Auditor after a state employee overseeing the contractor installing the troubled NCTracks system went to work for that contractor.
Senate Bill 729: Governor's Coal Ash Action Plan: Top Senate leaders have filed a bill that would enact McCrory's recommendations for how to deal with coal ash ponds around the state. The issue has become pressing after a Feb. 2 coal ash spill on the Dan River. Senate leaders have called the governor's bill "a starting point" and said they would likely press for more stringent timelines and requirements.